Hydro’s technical experts and British designer, Tom Dixon, teamed up on a challenge to make a 100% recyclable aluminum chair that could be shaped in one singular piece. The result is the HYDRO chair, inspired by the automotive production technique known as superplastic forming. Hydro’s 5083T aluminum alloy was used for the chair since it was specifically developed for the superplastic forming technique.
The chair’s balloon-like pattern was achieved by blow-forming the metal (superplastic forming) at high temperatures followed by laser cutting by robots. The aluminum can be stretched to several times its original size without failure when heated. These methods were developed in the automotive industries to make deep and complex forms that only a few years ago were impossible to achieve.
The group tapped into Hydro’s aluminum expertise and used the 5000 series alloys specially developed for superplastic forming, creating a chair that is lightweight but also robust and made to last (even outdoors). The chair was then manufactured and shaped by Verbom, a sheet metal processing company that offers design, fabrication sheet metal tooling, and production services.
The chair was unveiled during Tom Dixon Studio’s 24 hours in Milan digital event. Dixon is known for his love of metals and chose aluminum due to its suitable qualities for a light and strong chair designed with sustainability in mind.
“I have always been obsessed with materials and aluminum in particular,” said Dixon. “It’s a metal I find incredibly interesting with its endless opportunities in terms of shapes and surface qualities. Being able to work with the top aluminum and material experts in the industry was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.”
Aluminum is one of the few materials that can be recycled endlessly without losing its properties and is therefore an ideal material for a circular economy, getting more for less. Hydro produces more than 70% of its aluminum using renewable energy sources.
“The future needs circular materials and we need to design products that live longer, can be recycled or reused,” said Hilde Kallevig, head of Brand and Marketing at Hydro. “Understanding material properties and manufacturing processes will help create more sustainable products designed with recycling or reuse in mind, and that is why we believe it is important for designers and manufacturers to collaborate.”
A limited first edition of the chair will be sold exclusively on Tom Dixon’s online store, from Tom Dixon hubs around the world and selected international partners, they are priced at £2,021 each.